Is Kitty Kitchen Counter-Top Surfing Wise? Veterinarians and Owners Opinions Differ

Do your cats surf your kitchen counter-tops? Since all cats are predators and have a spectacular sense of smell, perhaps they are hunting for traces of roast beef or pieces of left over chicken.
Sir Hubble Pinkerton & Dr. Hush Puppy (FloridaWild patients)

Some kitty guardians never permit their cats on kitchen counter-tops while other allow them free access, except during meal preparation. But those who have a laisse-faire attitude about kitchen counter surfing dont agree with the results of a survey presented to both cat owners and veterinary professionals.

The survey results in which over a thousand veterinary professionals and 167 cat owners were asked whether cats should be given free access to kitchen counter-tops were reported by renowned veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker.

Without going into details about the reasons why cats may be attracted to kitchen counter-tops, (i.e., whether they were "hunting" for a tasty morsel or checking out their environment), 21 percent thought it was fine, 13% said they "rarely" allow it and 54.5 percent were hell-bent against it. Dr. Becker reported an "other" option in which 11.4 percent of the votes were from veterinary professionals.

However, the veterinary professionals were less permissive than the cat owners; 28 percent said that it was okay if their cats to counter-tops, 11 percent said, "Rarely" and 48.1 percent strongly objected. The rest of the survey takers put an X in the "other" box.

Its important to understand how feline behavior plays a part in accepting feline counter-top surfing. According to the report, 35 percent of the veterinarians' reasons differed somewhat about whether feline counter- top surfing was okay. They explained that cats generally feel safer on higher levels than being on the ground. Approximately 39 percent of the owners didn't mind their cats being on the counter-tops. Dr. Becker said, "The upshot is that while vet professionals might not allow cats on the counter as a rule, they're more likely than your run-of- the mill cat owner to turn a blind eye for this reason.

Interestingly, Dr. Becker admitted that she along with 22 percent of veterinarians and 17 percent of cat owners are okay with cats counter-top surfing behavior since its a moot issue. Becker said, Cats are going to do what they want to do anyway, especially when nobody's around to object."

A quarter of each group had no problem with their kitty jumping onto the kitchen counter if the cat fears an impending threat. Coming in second in the survey both the veterinarians and owners try to keep their cats off the kitchen counters while they are preparing meals, but dont dissuade them at other times.

A surprise in the survey revealed that only 5 percent of cat owners and 2 percent of veterinarians were stricter about keeping their cat off the kitchen counter-tops when they had company. The "other" option revealed that 36 percent of the cat owners and 46 percent of the veterinarians claimed their reactions had to do more with if someone was around to enforce the "no counter" rule, and a few respondents decided that at some point, (depending on the circumstances), all options might be successful.

Concerns about hygiene is a main reason stated by those folks who highly object to their cats counter-top surfing. Although most cat owners realize that felines instinctively keep themselves clean, they might wonder about where their cat's paws have been recently. After all can their paws really be sanitary if the cat just used a litter box? According to Dr. Becker, "cats bathe themselves on the average of half of their waking hours; with some cats self-grooming too often."

Cat owners who are nervous about their cats surfing the kitchen counters can redirect this unwanted behavior by providing their cats with alternates such as high perches or cat trees located near kitchen countertops. This technique is a win- win situation for cat and owner. However, feeding cats on the countertops can teach cats bad manners; therefore it may be unwise to use them as a feeding station.

When it comes to kitty counter-top surfing under which category do you find yourself? Tell us in a comment.

By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)